There were questions but no one spoke Monday against a bill that would provide $10 million to K-12 schools for school safety and deferred maintenance.
Senate Bill 2267, which passed the Senate last month on a 30-17 vote, was discussed before the House Education Committee.
School districts could apply for $25,000 in dollar-for-dollar grants from the Department of Public Instruction, under the bill. The grants could be used for such safety improvements as metal detectors and limiting access to one entrance. The funds also could be used for security cameras, access cards to certain entrances and fencing around school buildings. Leftover dollars would be allocated proportionally based on student enrollment.
Sen. Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, said North Dakota is far removed from incidents of school violence that have drawn national attention in recent years, but there is always the possibility they could happen in the state.
“We are probably the least prepared in terms of facilities,” Laffen said.
A large number of schools in the state’s 180 school districts were built in the early 20th century and in those days, the construction gave no consideration to safety.
Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, raised the issue of residents in smaller districts not wanting to approve bond issues for school improvements.
“If 60 percent of the district doesn’t think it’s an issue … why should the state have to step in?” Nathe asked.
Laffen replied that a number of smaller districts are in areas with large populations of older people and it would be tough to get the 60 percent vote necessary for a bond issue in those districts. He said it’s an issue to address in the future.
Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City, said SB2267 doesn’t fully address school safety but is a step in the right direction.
“If we can prevent one incident, it’s money well spent,” Robinson said. “Can we do better? I think so.”
No action was taken Monday on SB2267. Sponsoring the bill along with Laffen and Robinson are Sens. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, Nicole Poolman, R-Bismarck, and Reps. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, and Wayne Trottier, R-Northwood.